Brasserie Wolf

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Brasserie Wolf is a bit of a dark horse. Even though it’s been around for ages, we rarely think of this place when we go to Robertson Quay. This time we stepped in after a first choice wasn’t open in time for our hungry stomachs. It sure surprised us with the decent quality of food here.

My starter of fried goats cheese was rather quotidian. I’d rather have the cheese fried on its own or at most coated with beaten egg rather than battered. Eating it this way was oddly reminiscent of fried ice cream. The dressed salad was very good though.

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DC’s beef tartar was a winner. At first I wasn’t sure about the tartness from the chopped pickle, but was soon won over by its fresh flavours. I especially liked how fine they chopped up the mixture as most places do it slightly chunkier. This way, the flavours melded very nicely and the soft, meaty yet light mixture contrasted fabulously with the crisp mini toasts.

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DC had the braised crispy pork trotter and he fairly swooned with how good it was. I don’t know how they did it but they braised the pork so that it was meltingly tender yet the top was crisp just as promised in the menu. What really caught my attention was the sauce, it was reduced so much that any more and the chef wouldn’t be able to scrape it out the of the pot. Oh the intense flavours redolent of pork and wine! Coupled with the mushrooms, this was a dish made in heaven.

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Now my main hardly disappointed. I had the veal chop, a giant hunk of meat on the bone smothered in mushroom cream sauce and paired with mashed “beaucoup de beurre” potatoes. This really hit the spot for me as the veal was done nicely medium rare so that it was tender and very juicy. The mild flavour of the veal harmonised well with yummy forest mushrooms and the light cream sauce. The mashed potato was heart-stoppingly good. It was so smooth that it had to be a 1:1 mix of potato and butter.

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This was one of the rare times that we both decided that our own main was the better. We picked well and we’ll definitely visit again soon!

Brasserie WOLF
80 Mohamed Sultan Road
The Pier at Robertson #01-13
Tel: 6835 7818
brasserie@esmirada.com

June in Thailand: Si Satchanalai’s Main Complex

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We followed the track from Chaliang to the main complex at Si Satchanalai, passing by some private houses and a gate post that stuck to the theme of the area.

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Si Satchanalai was more park than ruin, with lovely paths leading here and there, plus some formidable flights of stairs that took so much out of us that we couldn’t do photos. At the top of one such hill was a temple ruin. The Buddha image looked like it used to be housed under a roof and still had pillars surrounding it. Even though there was a brick stairway leading up here, the trees growing thickly round made it feel like a chance finding.

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Again, the Buddha image was much venerated despite its age and exposure to the elements. The cloth draping seemed to have been recently changed.

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Further along from the first image, the trees thinned out somewhat and we came across a stupa and the forlorn remains of a little  temple.

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There were some very badly weathered Buddha images, some still venerated fairly recently as seen from the scraps of faded now dun-coloured cloth still clinging on to the image.

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Others were in even worse off shape and looked like they’d been in retirement for a hundred years at least.

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We stopped for a while to marvel how such a temple with two stupas could be built at the top of the steep hill. It must have taken lots of hard labour for the stones to be carted up and assembled to form such grand structures.

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Standing right at the top, we took in the lovely greenery below: of trees and the occasional stupa poking out in between. It was such a peaceful and serene sight.

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Back on lower ground, there were much more extensive structures, this time more of a holy city than simple temple. This one below had a Buddha image flanked by great serpents, which I liked a lot. There was something somewhat contradictory about the serenity of Buddha and the venomous snake juxtaposed that appealed to me.

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In these ruins, we noticed that new inhabitants had replaced the ancient humans. These brothers were rather shy.

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But one of them was braver than the other…

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… and came right up to check us out. He allowed Tom just one quick pat.

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And one pat was all. They allowed us a celebrity photo of them posing nicely.

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And then we were left to ponder the ancients on our own.

March in Laos: The Real Monkey Business

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Did you figure out how we got from tree house to tree house? Check out the picture below and see if you can now.

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There were cables strung up across different parts of the valley and also to each tree house. We were all kitted up with harnesses and a pulley and we were all set to go across the zipline. After a few zips across picturesque valleys and a couple of treks on foot, we went across the final cable to get into our tree house.

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It was loads of fun because of the incredibly high speeds. It was hard to appreciate the scenery while going past really fast. I think it was also less scary seeing the river coursing down the valley so far below when you’re worried about whether or not you’ll crash into a tree on the other side.

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But you do slow down in the end. Occasionally if you don’t build up enough momentum you end up slowing down too fast and have to climb the rest of the, thankfully, short way back to the receiving platform.

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There were some problems with rats at another tree house and this cat was despatched to get rid of them. Of course it didn’t have its own harness, so into a sack it went. It wasn’t too happy about the disrespectful treatment and gave its ride a good scratch when freed. At least it must’ve been in cat heaven hunting all the rats on the tree.

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It’s a pity I didn’t get any good pictures while on the zipline. Most of the time I was going to fast to frame the picture well, other times it was unfocussed and most time I was just having too much fun to even want to consider marring the experience by watching my camera fall hundreds of metres into the river below.

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Nonetheless, the dusk views from the tree houses were pretty amazing. It was good enough seeing this, it didn’t matter that we hardly saw any wildlife.

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Except this lizard that one of the local guides gamely displayed on his shirt.

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It was a lovely two and a half days running round the forest ziplining like rabid monkeys across the cables over and over and over and over again. It was great getting to know the others in the group swapping stories by candlelight at night, then going to sleep and waking up to another day of ziplining again. It really was worth coming all this while to Laos for this.

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March in Laos: Tree Houses

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As I mentioned earlier,  Siamesecat and I were up to some monkey business. We’d booked a couple nights’ stay in what was touted as a gibbon sanctuary. To cut the suspense, we didn’t see a single monkey, gibbon or not, in our three days and two nights in the forest. It was probably because we made so much noise tramping along the paths that we hardly even saw birds, let alone simians.

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Anyhow, it was lovely being right in the thick of nature. After being dropped off from the van that took us to Ban Toup from Huay Xai, it was a good two-hour walk from the little dot of a village to where we spied the first sign to our accommodation for the night.

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I’d never stayed in a tree house before and this excited me to no end. Seeing the first one looming ahead in the distance filled me with awe. It amazed me to think of how the first plank had to be hauled up to the top and painstakingly assembled, of course by hand, plank by plank and nail by nail.

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As we approached one by one, we were amazed by how well-made the tree house was, and how much space there was inside.

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The view from the top was lovely. This particular tree house had a stream running below it. It was great just leaning against the railing and doing nothing except enjoy the scenery.

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There was plenty of space for the six of us. The tree house turned into a bit of a tent city at night as each pair of mattresses had a thick mosquito net strung over it. We were definitely glad to put up the nets so that we could escape from the incredibly lot of insects at night. It was the jungle after all. In fact the only entertainment at night ,given that there was no electricity, was chatting in the candlelight. That until Discovery Channel came on, live mind you, as someone spied a large spider champing in its prey in one of the webbed alcoves.

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Meals were lovely. It was mainly plainly cooked vegetables with rice, but they were always skilfully cooked with a deft hand that I couldn’t help marvel that none of us particularly missed meat nor did anyone complain that the food was monotonous. There was plenty of fruit and occasionally one of our guides would swing by and ceremoniously cut up a pineapple or mango for us to devour.

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Smoking was not allowed in case of forest fires and drinking was only possible if we’d paid our guides an exorbitant sum to go out to Ban Toup for a warm beer. It was worth the hassle at all, so all the exercise in the day, healthy food and early nights going to bed soon after the sun went down, coupled with the fresh, fresh air made it feel like we were on a health camp. It was lovely.

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We didn’t have electricity at the tree house but we certainly did have running water. It was a bit of a pleasant shock to come into a tree house and see the sink and tap and use it to wash my hands. They’d rigged up a series of pipes and pumps to get filtered water running to each tree house. It was fantastic. There was a toilet and shower in the tree house too. Toilet paper had to be disposed of separately because it took ages to break down and having squares of toilet paper litter the ground below wouldn’t do at all in an eco-sanctuary. It was lovely taking a shower in the open concept bathroom, though standing on the slats and seeing how far one could fall was a tad frightening. However,  looking out at the valley from this height really took singing in the shower to a new level.

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One thing you may wonder is: if we were so high up in the tree, how did we get there? Well, we certainly didn’t climb up, that’s for sure. Believe me, nobody in their right mind would walk under a tree house with this kind of toilet system. It wasn’t quite a boot camp. Guess, I’ll tell you in my next post.

August in China: Zhaoxing Town

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After a whole series of tiny villages made out of clusters of at most fifteen buildings, Zhaoxing was in contrast a village of villages having no less than five large drum towers. It was a bustling town by countryside standards, with several itinerant vendors selling farm produce and wild mushrooms.

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We entered through one of the three main gates to the village. This gate bears the sign proclaiming that it was the first village of Dong country.

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Like many villages, Zhaoxing straddles a stream that provides water for drinking and washing. Clustered along both sides of the river were many houses. Naturally, there were quite a few wooden bridges dotting the river

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Here, bridges were not just meant for crossing. As per Dong tradition, bridges were social places for relaxing, chatting and watching village life go by.

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Of course, drum towers were very important too. Zhaoxing is deservedly famous for its five grand drum towers. They each have different designs, according to Dong tradition that requires every drum tower to be different. Unfortunately we were drum towered-out and couldn’t be bothered to check out each one.

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It didn’t help that the drum towers were rather deserted because the day we arrived was a festival day. People were either busy with the preparations back at home or milling around waiting for the action to start.

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We ended up wandering around quite aimlessly, taking in unusual sights, like this one. Probably the whole village’s shoes were drying against this yellow door.

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I was incredibly tempted by the wild mushrooms on sale all over town. Willy was uneasy about it but I was quite taken by the idea of wild mushrooms fresh off the forest floor. It was too bad that our guesthouse lady-boss didn’t want to cook wild mushrooms for our dinner. She said that every year at least one villager would die from eating a bad mushroom. Her family didn’t eat them, so we couldn’t either.

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That was just too bad, but no mushroom dinner meant that we had time to have a look at the festival in the village.

August in China: Amazing Views of Guizhou

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Guizhou is one of the poorest and most undeveloped provinces in China. It is a mountainous inland area populated by minority groups. Its underdevelopment is mainly due to the difficult transport lines. Good roads are only now being constructed and there are very few major highways passing through the province. What makes development difficult makes the scenery uncommonly beautiful. Throughout the winding journey, we got used to the lovely views of the many shades of green, from the pine trees to the rice paddies.

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Each turn gave us another great view. Why bother with TV and National Geographic when you can look out at this all afternoon?

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I envied the villagers their houses with the amazing views. It looked almost Swiss alpine and was all incredibly idyllic.

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Soon we spied a dark patch in the valley below. This had to be the biggest town in the area, Zhaoxing.

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After an unexpectedly long journey that was half the distance we’d last travelled yet took twice the time of our last journey, we finally arrived at the last Dong village on our itinerary.